UKZN Student Wins a PhD Visiting Scholarship to Aalborg University Denmark

UKZN Student Wins a PhD Visiting Scholarship to Aalborg University Denmark
Mr Maruf Sanni.

The African Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (AfricaLics, and Global Network for Economics of Learning, Innovation and Competence Building Systems (GlobeLics, have awarded a UKZN doctoral student of Public Policy, Mr Maruf Sanni a PhD scholarship training programme. Mr Sanni will be at Aalborg University as visiting PhD scholar for a six-month period.  This PhD training programme is an initiative that looks for talented African PhD student candidates enrolled in African universities.

The PhD sandwich training programme focuses on innovation and economic development. Maruf is one of the six PhD students selected for the opportunity to study at Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark, for a maximum of six months. In connection with the visiting scholarships, the main supervisor of each PhD student will be invited to pay a short visit to Denmark to exchange experience with Senior Scholars at AAU. Costs related to the visit will be covered by the programme.

Each student will be “matched” with a senior scholar from Aalborg University with competences in the field in which the student is active. Most Scholars currently attached to the AfricaLics PhD sandwich programme come from the research group called IKE (Innovation, Knowledge and Economic Dynamics – please see for more info about the research group and related activities), but Scholars from other research groups such as IBC (International Business Centre – are also attached to the programme. The extent to which the scholar from Aalborg University would act as formal Supervisor would depend on agreement reached with the university where the student is already enrolled as a PhD student (the partner university).

The visiting scholarships and the provision of a study period at Aalborg University are parts of the wider PhD study plan for each applicant including various elements:

    Initial theoretical studies and field work in home country/country where the student is already enrolled as a PhD student. Maximum of six months visit to Aalborg University to focus on writing up thesis or articles that are part of the PhD thesis. Participation in relevant events (e.g. Innovation, Knowledge and Economic Dynamics seminars) and PhD training courses offered by Aalborg University either alone or in collaboration with others taking place during the study period. Participation in key Globelics/AfricaLics activities such as conference and academies either during or after the study visit to Aalborg University. If students get accepted for participation in such events their participation will be supported financially through the programme. Return to home country and continue work on PhD dissertation/finalize and submit.

    The visiting PhD students will be able to utilize library resources; attend lectures from key academics in their research areas; present own papers to Senior Scholars and fellow PhD students at Aalborg University. Funding for the visiting scholarships has been provided by Sida (Stockholm) as part of a larger grant supporting the Globelics ( and AfricaLics ( research networks.

    Maruf Sanni

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    UKZN IMPI Crowned the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield Champions!

    UKZN IMPI Crowned the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield Champions!
    UKZN Impi team.

    UKZN Impi was recently crowned the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield Champions beating Wits University in the final match of the FNB Varsity Shield played at Wits Rugby Stadium.

    Thousands of spectators including UKZN students, UKZN Student Leadership (SRC), UKZN alumni, UKZN staff, friends of UKZN and the Executive Director of Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu cheered the team to 29-24 win.

    Impi landed the first blow through the captain Lwazi Ngcungama who scored a try under the poles and the conversion by kicker Spha Dube. A clever combination play from a line out between Matthew Mandioma and Chris De Beer saw UKZN increase the lead through De Beer’s try in the corner to 13-8 by the end of the first half.

    The second half started off well for Impi with an outstanding performance by the back line that saw Flyer Innocent Radebe score and convert another try to take the team to 21- 8.

    As the pressure mounted from the hosts, the team had not finished yet as they displayed some great attacking which saw Full Back replacement Alwayno Visagie score the final try for Impi which took UKZN to 29-16 with less than five minutes to the end of the game.

    Wits tried to claw their way back and were rewarded with a try, and this ended the game with UKZN clinching their first ever Varsity Shield title.

    Innocent Radebe was awarded the Player That Rocks for his outstanding performance during the final and the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield Overall Player That Rocks went to UKZN Captain Lwazi Ngcungama. 

    A special word of gratitude from the UKZN Impi Team and coaching staff goes to all the supporters who made their way to Wits University to give the team the much needed boost. Special acknowledgement was sent to the student leaders who came down with the UKZN students to support the team.

    ‘On behalf of the UKZN Executive Management, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Ryan Strudwick and the boys for flying the UKZN flag high throughout this tournament and for making us proud by being crowned the 2015 FNB Varsity Shield Champions!

    ‘I further wish to thank the entire UKZN community, our alumni and friends of UKZN for the marvellous support given to our UKZN Impi team throughout the championship. To all the students and student leaders who came and sang their lungs out at all the games that they attended, your contributions—in terms of lifting the spirit of the team and ensuring this great achievement- are highly appreciated,’ said Student Services Executive Director, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu.

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    Minister Blade Nzimande addresses UKZN community

    Minister Blade Nzimande addresses UKZN community
    Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande at UKZN.

    Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, addressed staff, students, members of University trade unions and the media on the Westville campus this week.

    Nzimande said his visit had been arranged to allow him to give the UKZN community his ‘undivided attention and time to engage on matters you think are crucial for the development of this university’.

    Nzimande focused on transformation and outlined the Department of Higher Education and Training’s contribution to the growth of UKZN. ‘From 2007, the department has allocated a total of R586 719 million towards infrastructure development at UKZN.

    ‘A number of significant building projects have already been completed, such as the UNITE building at Howard College and the Student Service Centre on the Westville campus which were opened in 2012,’ he said.

    Redressing ‘historical inequalities’ was important and there was also a need to more effectively align the higher education sector with South Africa’s priorities for skills, knowledge and economic development, while at the same time operating as a global player in a very competitive environment.

    Nzimande congratulated Dr Albert van Jaarsveld on his appointment as Vice-Chancellor and Principal and praised the University’s focus on Teaching and Learning. ‘I am pleased that UKZN, while being research orientated, is a balanced university that gives recognition to both research and teaching and learning.’

    He encouraged the University to play a role in developing teachers and lecturers for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the Community College sector.

    Students in the audience posed questions relating to financial aid, fee increases, security, and academia, among others.

    Nzimande assured members of the Progressive Youth Alliance, who asked several questions, that he would make himself available to meet them to further discuss their concerns.

    The Minister also had meetings with the University Council, senior management, the Central SRC, and representatives of staff and trade unions.

    Van Jaarsveld thanked the Minister for meeting with the University community and facilitating the exchange of ideas.

    Raylene Captain

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    Ethics and Conflict Resolution in Journalism Debated at Public Seminar

    Ethics and Conflict Resolution in Journalism Debated at Public Seminar
    French international reporter and correspondent, Mr Patrice Vanoni.

    The Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) Programme in UKZN’s School of Arts hosted their first public seminar in collaboration with Alliance Française de Durban (AFD) with the focus on Ethics and Conflict Resolution in Journalism.

    The seminar was presented by French international Reporter and Correspondent, Mr Patrice Vanoni, who shared some of his reporting experiences and lessons learned in war-torn countries.

    Vanoni spoke about reporting on rebel groups in Liberia and also about racial issues faced by a foreign correspondent in a war zone.

    A question from a member of the audience was: ‘How do French affiliated news agencies or news reporters remain objective when reporting African news?’

    Vanoni’s response was that in Liberia he was not concerned (at the time) with how the story was portrayed but was driven by capturing images on events that took place.

    Vanoni spoke about working as an international Reporter and Correspondent in a variety of countries, particularly in war-zones around Africa in the 1980s.  He also worked in India for four years, and later spent more than 10 years in the United States.

    He has experience in a wide range of media sectors with a lot of his work as a television reporter being shown on France’s biggest television channel, TF1.

    The second session of his presentation showcased helicopter television, through Les Cowboys de l’air- Helicos Police de Los Angeles (1997).

    He spoke about how television footage captured from helicopters could be viewed as unethical because of its sometimes graphic nature, especially when incidents end with individuals killing themselves or being killed by police.

    The seminar, coordinated by Media Lecturer Ms Luthando Ngema, also featured yet another Lecturer at MCS, Mrs Anusha Sewchurran, speaking about laying the theoretical foundations around issues of ethics in journalism in a South African context.

    Her brief talk offered insight into the challenges war journalists face in their work. ‘The psychological effect of what war journalists go through is something psychiatrists feel is not touched upon. War journalists experience a lifetime of post-war trauma, just like combat soldiers,’ said Sewchurran.

    The audience included the Director of AFD, Ms Sarah Doignon; AFD Communications and Culture Special Projects officer, Ms Vuyolwethu Ndlela; students from various levels who major in media, and Scholars and Academics.

    The event was a proud moment for the Department of Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) which initiated the project to cultivate the discipline and to debate issues around society.

    The aim was also to show how Media and Cultural Studies perceive and embrace issues pertinent to the growth of development and economies, and to discuss the reduction of poverty and racism, ultimately enhancing a global approach to media careers for local benefits. 

    Head of the MCS department, Professor Jean-Phillippe Wade, said, ‘We are rebuilding the department by moving away from a heavy focus on theory to trying to have a more practical engagement in the media field.’

    As part of the project, the department will host more visits from individuals in Media, Culture and Communication industries to present seminars open to the public.

    Melissa Mungroo, Luthando Ngema and Precious Zondi

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    UKZN Claims Top Spot in SAICA's Accounting Examination

    UKZN Claims Top Spot in SAICA's Accounting Examination

    The School of Accounting, Economics and Finance continues to excel in the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) Initial Test of Competence (ITC) examination as they have scored an outstanding  87% pass rate surpassing  the national pass rate of 76% and putting them in a tie for fifth  place out of 14 Universities. The ITC is one of the prerequisites for registration as a prospective Chartered Accountant CA(SA) after successful completion of the B Com Accounting degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (PGDA) or an Honours Degree in Accounting from a tertiary institution accredited by SAICA.

    The test which was taken in January is the first part of two rigorous external examinations that accounting graduates have to pass in order to qualify as chartered accountants. UKZN’s performance in the ITC exam, remains on an upward trajectory as the final year pass rate increased from 36% in 2012 to 39% in 2013 and to 59% in 2014.

    The School’s Coordinator of Accounting Programmes, Professor Philip Stegen said they are pleased with the results as they reflect that the various interventions which have been adopted by the Accounting Lecturers to improve the throughputs by ensuring that students are adequately prepared for the board exam, are yielding results.

    ‘These results represent the efforts of all the Accounting Academics who have implemented the various interventions and put in additional interventions to improve the throughputs, improve the standards and adequately prepare students for the board exams. There is no doubt that the final year students are much better prepared now than in previous years,’ said Stegen

    When it comes to the numbers of students writing the board exam, UKZN is the seventh highest but a lot smaller than some of the other bigger Universities.

    Stegen congratulated the Managerial Accounting and Finance  (MAF) Academics as the UKZN students writing the board exam got the highest overall average mark in the country in the MAF question, the UKZN students were placed third highest in the Auditing question and in the financial  accounting question they were above the national average in one question and below in the other.

    ‘The final year lecturers were a bit nervous about the SAICA results, but the outcome confirms that the improvement in the final year results in 2014, reflected a general improvement in the preparedness of the final year students. The various interventions which had been implemented over the years by all the Accounting Lecturers resulted in better prepared and more competent students who could pass the ITC. SAICA prescribe a 70% pass rate for the two ITC exams set each year, so UKZN has  exceeded that target safely in only the first ITC board exam,’ he said.

    Ms Mandi Olivier, SAICA’s Senior Executive responsible for Professional Development, congratulated all candidates who have passed their ITC examination in the first of the two 2015 sittings.

    She points out that passing the ITC is not the final requirement for qualifying as a CA(SA). Candidates can only qualify as CAs(SA) and become members of SAICA once they have successfully passed the ITC; completed the training contract requirements; completed a professional programme; and successfully passed the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

    Thandiwe Jumo

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    Gateway to Africa Partnership Gathers Momentum

    Gateway to Africa Partnership Gathers Momentum
    Role players in the Engineering Partnership (from left) Mr Trueman Goba of Hatch Goba; Dr Art Heidebrecht of McMaster University in Canada; Professor Deo Jaganyi , Professor Cristina Trois and Professor Jane Meyerowitz - all of the UKZN Foundation, and Dr Ishwar Puri of McMaster University.

    An exciting Engineering partnership between the University of KwaZulu-Natal, McMaster University in Canada and international Engineering giant, Hatch Goba Pty (Ltd), is starting to pay dividends.

    The three partners are working hard to establish a powerful, long-term relationship between the two universities which will create a unique educational and research collaboration spanning Canada and Africa.  

    UKZN’s School of Engineering signed a Memorandum of Understanding with McMaster University's Engineering department in October last year, establishing  a five-year partnership which aims to unite the two institutions in several key areas, including enhancing Engineering curricula, encouraging young Engineers, augmenting faculty skills, building on pedagogical tools and, ultimately, mentoring and inspiring South African Engineering leaders of the future.

    ‘The vision is to harness the existing excellence we have in UKZN’s School of Engineering as well as across our institution,’ said Dean and Head of the School of Engineering,, Professor Cristina Trois. ‘By pooling skills  we have in the field of Sustainable Urban, Infrastructural and Social Development with those of McMaster University, we aim to create a centre of excellence at UKZN that fosters innovation and best practice in curriculum development, knowledge production, research and scholarship.  Together we will build the African City of the Future!'

    ‘McMaster Engineering is excited to partner with UKZN since our values and social consciousness are aligned,’ said Dr Ishwar Puri, McMaster’s Dean of Engineering. ‘Both of our institutions place student learning in the middle of the education process, and are committed to discovery and innovation.’

    The plan is supported by Hatch Goba in South Africa, which is a division of the Canadian Engineering giant Hatch. The Canada-Africa university partnership was inspired by Hatch Goba chairman, Mr Trueman Goba, a UKZN alumnus, who has a vision for societal transformation through engineering and education. The Gateway to Africa Partnership is designed to foster South Africa's and UKZN’s role in the continent as a hub for the movement of people, ideas, opportunities and higher education.

    Faculty and staff from McMaster University have made two trips to South Africa, including a  visit last month, to collaborate with UKZN. Key components of the partnership were considered at a high-level think tank workshop for all stakeholders,  facilitated by UKZN Foundation Executive Director, Professor Jane Meyerowitz.  Hosted by the UKZN School of Engineering, key components considered included undergraduate student exchange programmes, growing and sustaining faculty recruitment and training, fostering student entrepreneurship and offering students hands-on learning through McMaster’s unique programmes.

    Representatives from UKZN plan to visit McMaster next month where  Goba will be honoured during the Engineering Faculty’s annual Applause and Accolades awards night.

    ‘The Gateway to Africa Partnership will enrich educational and research opportunities for students and staff at both UKZN and McMaster,’ said  Trois. ‘We look forward to this exciting collaboration with McMaster Engineering and Hatch Goba in developing a new generation of African engineers who are empowered to become the leaders of the future.’

    Sally Frost

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    Workshop on Gender Based Violence a Success

    Workshop on Gender Based Violence a Success
    Participants at the Gender Based Violence workshop held at UKZN’s Innovation Centre.

    A workshop on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Abuse, jointly facilitated by UKZN and the Advice Desk for the Abused, brought together almost 40 students, Academics, Professionals and members of the public.

    The participants were keen to engage and to get a better understanding of the causes of GBV as well as discuss interventions and strategies needed to minimise the issues presence in society.

    The facilitators included Ms Sam Howlett, a Doctoral Candidate - currently conducting research on how to improve interventions – who addressed gender based violence and counselling approaches, and Ms Simone Plug, a Doctoral Candidate, who focused on the issue of journal reflection when dealing with trauma.

    Professor Anthony Collins based at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) facilitated a session which illustrated different forms of abuse through video presentations, while UKZN’s Dr Lubna Nadvi and Ms Indira Vythilingam of the Advice Desk for the Abused jointly facilitated a session focusing on the work of Crisis Interventionists based at the Advice Desk.

    Professor Suria Govender of UKZN assisted in facilitating role playing sessions which explored how to deal with incidents of gender-based violence in terms of reporting and post incidence trauma management.

    Most of the facilitators are also board members of the Advice Desk for the Abused and active as practitioners in the field of GBV work.

    ‘The workshop was a great success in terms of feedback provided by the participants who indicated they would like to see more activities of this nature in future,’ said Dr Nadvi.

    The Advice Desk will, in conjunction with UKZN and other partners, co-host similar workshops this year, and invites the University and broader community to participate in these and become empowered to address the challenges presented by GBV.

    Melissa Mungroo

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    Umfundi Wase-UKZN Uhambele Ingqungquthela Yezobuciko Namasiko

    Umfundi Wase-UKZN Uhambele Ingqungquthela Yezobuciko Namasiko
    Umfundi Wase-UKZN uThabile Buthelezi Uhambele Ingqungquthela Yezobuciko Namasiko.

    Click here for English version

    Umfundi weziqu ze-Masters kwi-Applied Ethnomusiology e-UKZN  uNkz Thabile Buthelezi uhambele ingqungquthela i-Arts and Culture Trust University of Johannesburg njengengxenye yethimba labayisithupha baKwaZulu-Natali.

    Njengoba bekunguye kuphela  omele i-UKZN, uButhelezi ubuze imibuzo emayelana nokuthuthukisa ezobuCiko NamaSiko eNingizimu Afrika kube kusetshenziswana nabantu abasha embonini.

    Okumhlabe umxhwele kube ukulalela izikhulumi ezahlukene zikhuluma ngezindima nokuzimbandakanya kwazo okuqinisekisa ukuthi ukuqhubeka kwezobuCiko kuyaphumelela.

    Izingqungquthela ezifana nalezi ziyalekelela ezingxoxweni nabanye abakulo mkhakha womnotho wezobuciko futhi ziholela ekusebenzisaneni phakathi kwamaciko nezethameli zengqungquthela. ‘ kusho uButhelezi. ‘Engikufundile ukuthi umnotho wezobuciko udlala indima enkulu emnothweni waseNingizimu Afrika.

    Ngakho uxhaso ngezimali olukhulu nokwesekwa kumele kunikezwe imboni yezobuCiko namaSiko ukuze kuqinisekiswe ukuthi iyawuthuthukisa  umnotho. Ukuxhaswa ngezimali kwemihlangano efana ne-10th Annual African Cultural Calabash ne-1st Annual African Music Symposium kumele kuthathwe njengokubalulekile kakhulu yizinhlangano  ezixhasayo ngoba le mihlangano ayigcini nje ngokuthuthukisa futhi iqhubele phambili imboni kodwa yakha amathuba nezinkundla zobuciko

    UButhelezi uthe izingqungquthela ezifana nalezi zibaluleke kakhulu ngoba ‘ uzibonela mathupha ukuthi amanye amaciko enzani, ufunde, ubuze imibuzo futhi nisebenzisane nibe nixhumana’.

    Melissa Mungroo

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    Agreement to Benefit Agriculture and Life Sciences Studies Worldwide

    Agreement to Benefit Agriculture and Life Sciences Studies Worldwide
    President of the GCHERA, Professor John Kenelly (left), and President of SAALSDA, Professor Albert Modi, who signed a Memorandum of Understanding.

    The South African Agricultural and Life Sciences Deans Association (SAALSDA) and the Global Confederation of Higher Education Associations for Agricultural and Life Sciences (GCHERA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will see the newly-instituted SAALSDA operating on a global level by collaborating with universities and institutions around the world.

    President of SAALSDA, Professor Albert Modi, signed the MoU with GCHERA, with the support of the National Research Foundation (NRF).

    SAALSDA was initiated in March 2014 in response to the need to improve perceptions of the study of Agricultural and Life Science disciplines through linking Agricultural and Life Sciences university departments across South Africa, Africa and the world. The association aims to encourage the participation of all universities and technikons in South Africa which offer Agricultural and Life Science studies.

    Modi, who is also a Senior Fellow of GreenMatter, was unanimously voted in as the association’s first President, and in that position has championed the establishment of a MoU with GCHERA, a global organisation which links Agricultural and Life Sciences association to one another.

    GCHERA’s aims as an organisation are to encourage global collaboration and co-operation between Higher Education associations such as SAALSDA and their constituent member institutions. The global context afforded by being linked with GCHERA ensures that the work of SAALSDA and its constituent member institutions remains relevant and promotes innovation, research and outreach in those specific disciplines.

    GCHERA supports the vital development of agricultural education so that graduates are equipped to meet the challenges facing the world in terms of efforts required to combat poverty, promote biodiversity, improve health and nutrition, and ensure sustainable development, among other things.

    According to Modi, the signing of this MoU enables SAALSDA to participate in GCHERA’s global agenda and have access to their support as well as gain collaborative advantage to work with other universities worldwide to engage in activities related to agriculture and life sciences.

    ‘This MoU is a milestone for SAALSDA, which is a new organisation and it is hoped that the South African universities and other institutions will take advantage of the MoU and participation in SAALSDA,’ said Modi.

    The purpose of the MoU is to strengthen the co-operation between SAALSDA and GCHERA in a collaborative effort to lead the way to a better future through agricultural and life science education, research and innovation. This will be a mutually beneficial exercise which will see these associations working towards achieving their goals of ensuring food security, promoting sustainable development and natural resource management, enhancing nutrition and providing economic opportunities for rural communities.

    GCHERA will provide the platform needed for SAALSDA to discuss strategic developments in Agricultural and Life Science universities in terms of research, innovation and education, while representing the interests of SAALSDA in global forums.

    Part of SAALSDA’s role in the agreement with the Confederation is to promote and support joint activities such as conferences and projects with members of GCHERA.

    Christine Cuénod

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    UKZN's Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics Working on Power Supply Solutions

    UKZN's Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics Working on Power Supply Solutions
    The GSET's Ring Array Concentrator, Compound Linear Fresnel Concentrator and Howard College Solar Measurement Station.

    UKZN’s Group for Solar Energy Thermodynamics (GSET), a research unit at the Discipline of Mechanical Engineering working in the field of solar-thermal energy, was formed in 2009 with the intention of providing a foundation for solar-thermal energy research and is now investigating possible solutions to South Africa’s power shortage.

    The group was created by UKZN staff members Mr Jean Pitot, who leads the initiative, and Mr Michael Brooks. Dr Clinton Bemont is now also part of the group.

    ‘Solar-thermal technologies make use of ambient or concentrated sunlight to heat water or to generate electrical power or process heat, and are fundamentally different to photovoltaic (PV) technologies, which convert solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials,’ explained Pitot.

    ‘Solar-thermal technologies will likely play a prominent role in the world’s energy future, as it transitions from the use of carbon-intensive, finite fossil fuels for power generation and transportation to the use of sustainable energy resources for these purposes. At present, solar-thermal technologies face a number of general challenges to their wide-scale deployment, chief of which is their comparatively high cost,’ he said.

    ‘To realise the significant potential that solar-thermal technologies offer in addressing the problems of climate change, diminishing fossil fuel reserves and energy security, the rate at which associated research is undertaken must be accelerated.

    ‘Establishing better and cheaper ways to convert solar energy into electricity is critical to this cause, and GSET provides the platform needed to enable this type of research at UKZN,’ said Pitot.

    GSET is uniquely positioned, being the only group at UKZN that focuses primarily on solar-thermal energy systems, and one of only three research groups in the country that deals specifically with the thermodynamic considerations associated with solar power generation. Furthermore, GSET has strong links with Mechanical Engineering’s Aerospace Systems Research Group, which enables the fruitful cross-pollination of ideas and concepts between disciplines.

    GSET’s work provides valuable research into innovative energy solutions desperately needed in South Africa, where the current power crisis highlights the significant shortage of generation capacity. The GSET team believes that this crisis could be alleviated to an extent in the near future by the uptake of rapidly-deployable renewable energy systems. They have taken the route of optimistically seeing opportunity in the crisis, saying that the electricity shortage, coupled with South Africa’s world-class solar energy resource and engineering talent pool, provide fertile ground for the country to grow into a world-leader in solar-electric power generation, especially concentrating solar power generation.

    The group’s research is of an applied nature, with specific focus on the areas of solar energy resource assessment and forecasting, solar concentrator design (reflective systems for concentrating sunlight), concentrating solar power plant cycle analysis, thermal management systems and allied technology development support.

    Pitot was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship in 2013 and spent six months in the United States conducting research. GSET is also supported in its work by Professor Lance Roberts and Professor Graham Smith and has facilitated research by a number of postgraduate and undergraduate students. Part of GSET’s main accomplishments since 2009 have been the graduation of several Masters students in Mechanical Engineering.

    The group is also involved in creating notable and meaningful partnerships which serve to enhance the work of research Engineers across South Africa and the world. Their partners include Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Mangosuthu University of Technology, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado, the University of Florida, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the national Department of Science and Technology, the University of Réunion and the University of Zululand.

    GSET is currently assisting the University of Zululand to establish a research capability in solar energy as part of their outreach efforts to build capacity in other institutions using the knowledge they have gained over the years. The group’s collaboration with Stellenbosch University has enabled them to play a central role in the development of the Southern African Universities Radiometric Network (SAURAN) which provides free access to solar energy data from stations across southern Africa.

    Providing critical support to the group’s activities is their access to a number of cutting-edge technology resources. On campus, GSET operates an advanced solar energy measurement station that feeds sun strength information into the Southern African Universities Radiometric Network (SAURAN) and allows for the measurement of the performance of solar energy systems that the students build. Students doing research through the centre also have access to state of the art computers and software for conducting finite element, computational fluid dynamics and optical ray-tracing analyses.

    In addition to their contributions to SAURAN, GSET has built a range of solar concentrating systems that can be used to generate high intensity solar flux on targets. Currently, GSET is developing the Solar Energy Research Amplified Flux Facility or SERAFF, which is believed to be South Africa’s first solar furnace facility. SERAFF will enable the testing and development of concentrating solar power receiver systems and novel high temperature materials. The facility may also be able to facilitate solar-thermo-chemistry experiments. GSET has also pioneered a novel, lightweight, simplified concentrator system, based on compounded linear Fresnel optics.

    The individuals involved in GSET see huge potential for their work to contribute to the renewable technologies that South Africa is currently rolling out in an effort to diversify its energy mix, which currently relies almost exclusively on coal-fired power stations.

    According to the group, GSET’s work in solar concentrators, thermodynamic cycle analysis, solar resource assessment, and allied technology development is aimed at supporting the national effort. By its nature, the research the group conducts is not limited to application in South Africa alone. The technologies developed by GSET are globally relevant and contribute to the overall advancement of the field of renewable energy research.

    Christine Cuénod

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    Physics Professor Champions Atmospheric Science Research and Education

    Physics Professor Champions Atmospheric Science Research and Education
    Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman at the 2014 annual SASAS Conference.

    Professor Sivakumar Venkataraman has been at the forefront of a variety of efforts to popularise and advance teaching and research in the field of atmospheric science at UKZN, with his efforts resulting in several achievements for the Atmospheric Research Group in the School of Chemistry and Physics.

    An enthusiastic and active member of the South African Society of Atmospheric Science (SASAS), Venkataraman was recently re-elected to its council of and once again holds the position of Vice-President for a two-year period.

    Venkataraman has been an Executive Council member of SASAS since 2008 and was first elected to the office of Vice-President in 2012. The position requires Venkataraman to advise the society and benefit them through his work on their behalf.

    Venkataraman has also introduced peer reviewed conference proceedings to the society and acted as editor for the last four years.  His role in the society’s conference planning is an important one and he was part of the process of introducing a one-day student training workshop first held in 2013.

    The aim for his two-year tenure is to increase the number of new members entering the society and plan for joint ventures with other societies whose activities and interests align with those of the SASAS. Venkataraman looks forward to contributing towards the society reaching its goal of growing Atmospheric Science within the country and Southern Africa.

    This corresponds closely with Venkataraman’s own goals in his research which aims to understand the structure and dynamics of the atmosphere in the context of global changes, particularly in the relatively poorly-documented regions of the tropical and austral regions of the southern hemisphere.

    He focuses much of his research activity on atmospheric themes, including remote sensing techniques and atmospheric pollution measurements, assisted by the School’s state-of-the-art equipment which he manages, such as the portable 2D LIDAR and the CIMEL sun-photometer.

    The 2D LIDAR, which was acquired last year, is a piece of state-of-the-art equipment which is used to send laser beams into the atmosphere and collect the backscattered photons through a telescope, optics, electronics and data acquisitions. This technical process provides high resolution vertical profiles of factors such as aerosols, clouds and water vapour and collects data for a height range of up to 40km.

    It has recently been used for smoke detection in the atmosphere in coastal areas. This valuable data allows researchers to study the evolution of these factors and the growth of emission levels from industries and factories. The CIMEL sun-photometer apparatus, which collects publicly-available data on atmospheric aerosol conditions in KwaZulu-Natal, contributes to NASA’s online Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET).

    The LIDAR, one of only two in the country. is providing much-needed data collection for Venkataraman’s research group. It supports the existing honours degree modules on Atmospheric Physics, earlier third year Applied Physics courses, remote sensing techniques and has a PhD student using its data for work on Aerosol and Cloud studies. The equipment, managed by Venkataraman, has enabled the group to conduct bio-mass burning campaign measurements in collaboration with CSIR National Laser Centre (NLC) in Pretoria and the Université de la Réunion on the island of Réunion. Other collaborations include joint research work with a team in Algeria which is planning to develop a similar LIDAR system for important atmospheric research.

    Venkataraman has been invited to give various talks on LIDAR research activities in Africa, with the most recent taking place at the Africa Laser Centre workshop in November last year. He has also been able to publish various book chapters on his LIDAR work with international publishers such as Wiley-VCH, InTech and Springer.   

    His research continues to yield positive results and his group is dedicated to training the next generation of Atmospheric Researchers. Currently it supports the research of six PhD students and four Masters students. Additionally, Venkataraman has begun planning a training workshop to take place in Durban on the 10 and 11 September this year on the topic of Laser and Optics in Atmospheric Remote Sensing.

    The workshop is supported through the African Laser Centre and is taking place in recognition of the global International Year of Light (IYL) 2015. Attendance is free, specifically for South African postgraduate students who are interested in this research area.

    Christine Cuénod

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    UKZN Business School Student to Represent Young African Leaders in Washington DC

    UKZN Business School Student to Represent Young African Leaders in Washington DC
    Mr Andile Biyela.

    Masters in Commerce in Local Economic Development final year student, Mr Andile Biyela, has been chosen to participate in the prestigious 2015 Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders.

    Biyela, a product of UKZN’s Graduate School of Business and Leadership’s Regional and Economic Development Project, and is the Assistant Director for Economic Development, Nkandla Municipality. 

    The fellowship is a flagship programme of United States President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative. It will enable Biyela to spend six weeks studying business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, or public management at a United States institution of Higher Education this June.

    After academic residency at a college or university which creates an opportunity for him to hone his leadership skills and network with other young leaders from sub-Saharan Africa and the United States, he goes to Washington, DC to participate in a three-day Mandela Washington Fellowship Summit hosted by President Obama.

    ‘After having stayed in the US for a while in 2009, I always wanted to go back because I enjoyed my time there. I want to meet President Barack Obama and this programme is going to make that dream a reality. This is a wonderful opportunity as it offers me the chance to study at a US University during the course of the fellowship,’ said Biyela.

    The summit also gives Biyela an opportunity to interact with US leaders in the fields of business, government, and the non-profit sector.  There’s also an opportunity for him to remain in the United States for additional professional development experiences at companies, non-profit organizations, or government agencies.

    For Biyela, enhancing his knowledge through studying LED is not only about the theory leaned in the classroom but it’s also about gathering the practical experience and learning best practices from other leaders. This motivated him to apply for this fellowship with about 30 000 other South Africans from whom only five were chosen.

    ‘It was quite a rigorous and intense process in which required you to submit a very strong application and further successfully complete subsequent interviews,’ said Biyela. ‘I want to thank Dr Jennifer Houghton from the Graduate School of Business who assisted me by submitting a reference letter which strengthened my application as well as Inkosi Sbonelo Mkhize, a former fellow, who gave me guidance in the process of the application,’ explained Biyela.

    Looking to the future, Biyela hopes to engage and share ideas with other young leaders during his academic, professional and personal development.

    ‘The fellowship will help me strengthen my relations with the international community. It will give me practical experience on governance and leadership from a different perspective and harness my skills and grow my knowledge faculty. Upon returning to South Africa, I hope to use the acquired skills to also grow my business (Ithemba Driving School) across the country and create more job opportunities,’ he said.

    Thandiwe Jumo

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    Young Pupil Enjoys Being a "Researcher for a Day"

    Young Pupil Enjoys Being a "Researcher for a Day"
    Miss Sarah Camp from St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls spent a day gaining ‘work experience’ at the School of Life Sciences under the supervision of Research Assistant, Ms Siphumelele Mhlongo.

    Miss Sarah Camp, a Grade 11 pupil who is interested in pursuing a career in Conservation and Ecology-related fields, spent a day as a guest of the School of Life Sciences on UKZN's Pietermaritzburg Campus.

    Camp, of St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls in Kloof, approached Professor Colleen Downs who agreed to let her try her hand at being a ‘researcher’ for a day. 

    Camp describes her experiences:

    ‘I arrived 8am sharp, ready to tackle a day in the Zoology discipline.  Siphume, my guide for the day, met me in Prof Downs' office and spent the morning showing me around the Life Sciences Pietermaritzburg Campus.

    ‘We visited the Botanical Gardens, the animal house as well as various labs along the way. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and I scored a few private tours from students keen to show me their research sections.

    ‘Then it was back to offer a helping hand at the animal house. We found Eebee Ally in his office, who promptly put us to work. Besides preparing fruit for the birds, feeding mealworms to the tarantulas and topping up the water in the rodent cages, we were also shown how to handle mice, budgies and the friendly hand-reared mouse bird called: "Bird". Eebee clearly has a passion for his job, and goes to great lengths to ensure the comfort of the creatures under his care.

    ‘Once we'd finished the animals' lunch rounds, it was time to take our leave. We headed back to Prof's office to catch up with some of her postgrad students.  I was introduced to the plight of the Serval, and efforts to research this beautiful cat by Dr Ramesh who has been working on them in the Midlands. Siphume also showed me her work recording animals caught on trap cameras in various game reserves around the province.

    ‘A final trip to feed the fruit bats in the outside aviaries and a crash course in electron microscopy brought my day to a close.

    ‘All in all, it was a highly stimulating experience, and a lot of fun! Thanks to Prof Downs, Siphume and the School of Life Sciences.  I now have a far clearer idea of what it means to be an Academic Researcher, and what studying for a Bachelor of Science would entail.’

    Sally Frost

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